This is not a post about always asking for a retainer up front or why you should take credit cards (both boffo ideas in their own right). This is not about managing accounts receivable, setting rates, or getting reticent clients to make good on their debts. This is not about how you should handle the occasional request to barter for your services (if the suggestion involves livestock, it is always better to ask that for it to be delivered wrapped and frozen and not walking and mooing).
I have a colleague who describes his research as falling into two categories: the stuff he does for DARPA (which pays the bills) and the stuff he does to make his mother proud. Which, in a way, is a good summation as to why I do the odd bit of pro bono work.
Aspirational goals aside, there is little upside for the rural lawyer to do pro bono – there is no great PR bump (there is an expectation in rural communities that neighbors look out for each other & the definition of neighbor is quite expansive) and there is certainly little return on the investment outside of that smile, those tears, that look of relief that comes when the client realizes that there is someone there to help shoulder the load. It’s not a payment you can take to the bank, but it has its own inestimable worth.
Remember: National Pro Bono Week is October 23-29 – go make mom proud.